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Postoperative medical complications are the main cause of early death after emergency surgery for colonic cancer. BJS 2008; 95: 1012-1019.

Published: 18th June 2008

Authors: L. H. Iversen, S. Bülow, I. J. Christensen, S. Laurberg, H. Harling


Only a few small studies have evaluated risk factors related to early death following emergency surgery for colonic cancer. The aim of this study was to identify risk factors for death within 30 days after such surgery.


Some 2157 patients who underwent emergency treatment for colonic cancer from May 2001 to December 2005 were identified from the national colorectal cancer registry. Thirty‐day mortality rates were calculated and risk factors for early death were identified using logistic regression analysis.


The overall 30‐day mortality rate was 22·1 per cent. The strongest risk factor for early death was postoperative medical complications (cardiopulmonary, renal, thromboembolic and infectious), with an odds ratio of 11·7 (95 per cent confidence interval 8·8 to 15·5). Such complications occurred in 24·4 per cent of patients, of whom 57·8 per cent died. Other independent risk factors were age at least 71 years, male sex, American Society of Anesthesiologists grade III or more, palliative outcome, tumour perforation, splenectomy and adverse intraoperative surgical events. Postoperative surgical complications were noted in 20·4 per cent of the patients but had no statistically significant influence on mortality.


Emergency surgery for colonic cancer is still associated with an increased risk of death. There is a need for a system providing increased safety in the perioperative period. Copyright © 2008 British Journal of Surgery Society Ltd. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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